Chinese workers don’t need Milne’s “support”

July 3, 2010 at 10:04 pm (Guardian, Human rights, Jim D, stalinism, Uncategorized, unions, workers)

The Chinese working class, super-exploited by the standards we in the West are used to – are on the march. There have been militant strikes recently at the Sino-Japanese Honda Lock plant in Zhongshan, the Japanese-owned Brother Industries in Xi’an and the electronics company Foxconn, where industrial action has been accompanied by suicides of workers. In many of these disputes, workers have clashed not just with the factory bosses but also with the state-run “unions” controlled by managers and beholden to the Chinese state and the “Communist” ruling class.

The tipping point, according to Chinese labour activists, was the major demonstration in 2008 by workers at Yantian port in Shenzhen, owned by the richest capitalist in Asia, Li Ka-Shing.

Liu Kaiming, director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a labour rights group in Shenzhen, quoted in the Guardian of 12 June, said: “that was the tipping point because they demanded their own representatives. Workers in China are becoming more and more powerful. They are not just asking for higher wages; they are asking for collective rights and benefits.”

This is encouraging news for all of us who believe in socialism-from-below and hate Stalinism in all its variations, and perhaps especially its capitalist variation in China. But the Graun‘s resident Stalinist, Seumas “Posh Boy” Milne has written an astonishing piece somehow managing to suggest that the strikes are supported by the Chinese ruling class (or, at least, a section of it) and are a “powerful challenge” not to the Chinese ruling class, but to…”Washington.”

The Stalin school of falsification lives on, at the Graun

Workers Liberty has answered Milne’s slippery distortions:

Honda Lock Motor factory strikers
Striking workers at the Honda Lock factory

Those who doubt the malign influence of Stalinism should read Seamus Milne’s carefully worded eulogy of the Chinese ruling class in the Guardian (1 July).
Milne describes the benefits of “China’s economic model”, slipping in a gratuitous reference to its constitution, which states China is a “socialist state led by the working class”.

Strikes are apparently normally “discouraged”, rather than the more accurate description – generally repressed. Milne states correctly that the recent strikes have been organised “outside of official union structures”, omitting that these “official unions” are state labour fronts with no independent role for representing workers.

For Milne, the response of the authorities to these strikes “has verged on the supportive”. Apparently the “Hu Jintao leadership” is determined to tackle inequality and increase consumption. Milne also falls back on his usual lesser evil argument, that China’s model is “a powerful challenge to the Washington consensus” – rather than in symbiosis with it.

But Milne goes much further than this. He suggests that there are “signs of a resumption of reform socialism”, and of the “restoration of the working class as the leading class”. This is pure fantasy. The idea that the Chinese rulers retain a socialist essence should have been buried after their repression of workers and students in Tiananmen Square in 1989, if not decades before.

Milne states that the strikes have been against rampant exploitation, but fails to draw the necessary conclusions. If the strikes are about exploitation, this means one class is extracting surplus labour from another. Chinese capitalists, in cahoots with multinationals and backed by the Chinese state are exploiting Chinese workers. China is a class society – indeed a capitalist society, not a better or more progressive economic system.

The strikes represent a great hope – the emergence of a powerful Chinese working class. This movement will have to beware of fake lefts “friends” and apparent fellow travellers like Milne.

10 Comments

  1. Will said,

  2. tc said,

    “For Milne, the response of the authorities to these strikes “has verged on the supportive”. Apparently the “Hu Jintao leadership” is determined to tackle inequality and increase consumption. Milne also falls back on his usual lesser evil argument, that China’s model is “a powerful challenge to the Washington consensus” – rather than in symbiosis with it.”

    How very pseudo-trotskyist. Must be nice when a n enemy of your goernment faces strikes – you get to drag out the holiday speechifying.

    What a shame though that Jim always supports the “lesser evil” when it’s dressed in the Union Jack.

  3. Jim Denham said,

    I don’t know what the Union Jack has to do with supporting Chinese workers, TC. Perhaps you’d care to explain.

    As for me, I agree with Orwell: “when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.”

  4. Kuching Hitam said,

    @tc

    Since when is the Chinese capitalist military industrial complex an enemy of the British capitalist state? That would be very bad for business. Everyone gets on famously: there’s plenty of money to be made and the workers get screwed — on both sides of the equation.

  5. johng said,

    Jim D,

    Are you suggesting that workers struggles globally are NOT a challenge to Washington and the neo-liberal consensus the US has promoted over the last few decades?

  6. Jim Denham said,

    Duh….John… all strikes are ultimately against capitalism itself, but it is a littlem strange (surely even you must recognise) to suggest that strikes in China are primarily aimed against…Washington…don’t you think?

  7. Will said,

    gameBoiy is the thickest cunT evah.

  8. WOOT said,

    I see Will played a leading role in police negotations with the late Raoul Moat:

    I’m sorry your valient efforts didn’t pay off comrade ; (

  9. The Stalin school of falsification continued « Poumista said,

    [...] On Seamus Milne and the Chinese working class. Published in: [...]

  10. Renegade Eye said,

    There are splits in the Chinese Communist Party, over what extent to give concessions. That doesn’t contradict the main point of your post.

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